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Minor Pentatonic Scale, Position 1

The first useful hand position for a minor pentatonic scale.

James Porter

The diagram shown on the previous page is all well and good if you only want to play the scale in one place on the fretboard. But what if you want to move up or down and play notes outside this narrow, one-octave range? There are more notes of the key in other octaves and other hand positions along the fretboard.

From any hand position, your fingers can reach 16 different notes, using four frets and four strings. Only some of these are part of the scale, and they form a certain pattern. As you move your hand up or down, the pattern under your hand will change accordingly. If you move up or down 12 frets, an entire octave, you come back around to the same place in the pattern where you started.

Certain hand positions give you access to more notes in the scale than others do, and are therefore more useful. When you learn a scale, you learn the useful hand positions and memorize the pattern of notes under your fingers for each one. Fortunately, these patterns are the same for many scales, and there are typically only five useful hand positions in an octave. You can memorize five fingering patterns and use it for dozens of scales.

As an example, look at the accompanying fretboard diagram. This shows the first useful hand position of a minor pentatonic scale. The first position is the position in which the lowest note you can play is the root of the scale. The pattern shown will be the same anywhere where the root of the scale is under your first finger on the fourth string. If you are playing in G, that will be the third fret, whereas if you are playing in C, it will be the eighth.

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